Getting Out the Ballots Can Be as Tough as Getting Out the Vote

Times Staff Writers

The good news: There are a record 1.5 million people registered to vote in Orange County, many of whom registered shortly before the Oct. 11 deadline for Tuesday’s election.

The bad news: The county registrar of voters office has been swamped trying to get out sample ballots and fill the requests for 100,000 absentee ballots.

As might be expected, there have been a few glitches.

Registrar Donald F. Tanney said sample ballots were ordered before registration closed. The number of voters far exceeded projections, and in the end, sample ballots had to be photocopied to fill the gap. The last 2,000 sample ballots were sent to voters Friday.


Another glitch: While most voters received their absentee ballots, a few had their requests returned when postal workers got confused about who was the sender and who was the receiver. The registrar’s address is on one side of the envelope; the voter’s is on the other.

Lois Hunden, 80, didn’t notice until too late that she got back her own application instead of a ballot. She had been hospitalized recently because of a fall and wanted to mail in her ballot. She was angry when she sat down to fill it out and found she had the wrong form.

Hunden will try to get to her Huntington Beach polling place but said of the procedure, “It’s a fiasco.”

Here’s a switch: Vice President George Bush may really be a liberal.


That’s the message Steve Wilson and his small political group called the New Americans had at a recent GOP rally at Cal State Fullerton. But local Republicans didn’t take kindly to Wilson or his group of self-described “political discontents,” who believe Bush secretly plans to raise taxes and wants to befriend the Chinese.

As the group tried to join others waiting on a soccer field for President Reagan’s helicopter to land, they were confronted by police officers, at the urging of GOP rally organizers. Wilson and group members, who chanted “Bush is a liberal” could stay. But their handmade signs had to go.

“I guess they felt our signs clashed with their pretty blue Bush/Quayle numbers,” said Wilson, a La Habra resident and a Libertarian.

One sign would have pleased Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis.

It read: “No more liberal Republicans.”

Officials of the Orange County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are angry.

It seems the campaign staff of state Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk) mailed thousands of copies of a private letter sent to the lawmaker by local MADD director Janet Cater. The letter thanked Green for legislation he sponsored earlier this year that toughened penalties for drunk drivers convicted of manslaughter.

What angered Cater and others in the group was that Green’s campaign consultants, without Cater’s permission, reproduced the letter and sent it to nearly 150,000 voters in the 33rd District, which includes portions of Buena Park, Los Alamitos, Cypress and Garden Grove. Cater said it was used in such a way that it appears MADD has endorsed Green.


“When you send a thank-you note, you don’t think the person is going to publish it . . . in the form of an endorsement,” Cater said. “We are very, very disappointed. We feel we’ve been used.”

Larry Morse, a spokesman for Green, said there is “nothing inherently wrong with reprinting a letter that acknowledges your good work.” He said it was not intended to appear as an endorsement, adding, “We were only trying to put our best foot forward.”

Democrats recommending that voters cast their ballots for Republicans. Republicans, parading as Democrats, endorsing Republicans.

And nobody saying who is what. It must be slate mailer time.

Voters have been receiving various so-called “slate mailers"--recommended lists of candidates and ballot measures to vote for. What most voters don’t realize is that slate mailers, for the most part, are simply moneymakers for whoever puts them out.

Someone--usually with a particular political viewpoint--asks candidates to pay to be on a recommendation list to be sent to voters. Sometimes such mailers are consistent with party positions and endorsements. Often they are not. And if enough paying candidates cannot be found, names are put on the list to fill them out.

Sometimes, the slate mailers make for very strange bedfellows.

One that began arriving Thursday in several Orange County communities urged residents to vote for “Your . . . Democratic Team.” But most of the candidates it listed--including U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson, state Sen. Marian Bergeson of Newport Beach and C. Christopher Cox, a candidate for the 40th Congressional District--are Republicans.


“It is the most deceptive piece of mail I’ve seen this year,” Orange County Democratic Party chairman John Hanna said.

A note on the mailer said it was put out by “Republic Communications” of Los Angeles. The secretary of state’s office said it was actually “Republican Communications.”

Candidates who purportedly paid for the mailer were noted with an asterisk, including Wilson and Cox. Wilson aide Scott Hart said Wilson “did not authorize or pay for that mailer.”

Carlos Rodriguez, Cox’s campaign consultant, said the campaign paid $500 for Cox’s spot. Asked why the Republican names were put on a slate that lists them as the Democratic team, Rodriguez replied, “I guess they have good taste.”

Such lists are sent by both parties.

Another “Democratic Voter Guide” put out by Berman-D’Agostino Campaigns, a Democratic consulting firm from Los Angeles, recommends votes for the Democratic presidential ticket and several other Democrats. It also lists several Republicans, including Santa Ana Mayor Dan Young, a recent GOP convert. The mayor’s race is nonpartisan.

Hanna, reacting to that mailer, said Young “betrayed his party and his principles” when he switched parties.

And the mailer, Hanna said, is put out by a company “concerned solely with its profit.”

If you don’t like the names on the ballot, you can always write one in. It will count if the person is registered as a write-in candidate.

In local elections, these include:

Beatrice Foster of Tustin, a Democratic activist running in the 39th Congressional District. The person listed as Democrat on the ballot is Don E. Marquis of Woodland Hills, who is actually a follower of Lyndon LaRouche. The incumbent is William E. Dannemeyer (R-Fullerton).

John Kelly of Tustin, a Republican running in the 40th Congressional District, where the GOP nominee on the ballot is C. Christopher Cox. Kelly ran in the GOP primary and lost.

James Nelson Green, who is running for San Clemente City Council.

Douglas M. Chapman, who is running for Tustin Unified School District Board.